Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Impact...the Moment of Truth!

If you look at the golf swings of past playing professionals, they were all a little different.  If you attended a PGA TOUR event in the 1960's you could pick out Gene Littler by his smooth swing.  You could also pick out Miller Barber by his unusual swing and Don January by his unique set up.  Then came the 1970's and you could certainly recognize Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Trevino to just name a few.  But, as different as their swings were, they all got back to impact in very similar positions.  Impact was their "moment of truth".

As we moved into the 1980's and 1990's, golf swings on the PGA TOUR began looking very similar with only a handful of exceptions.  Golf instruction methods were improving due to access to video and other high tech teaching aids.  Players had more access to viewing their swing and seeing how they measured up to their competition.  With the purses growing on the TOUR, players had to find ways to minimize their mistakes.  Missing a shot or two a round would cost them money!  So, they began fine tuning their swings paying attention to every little detail.  I think this "mechanical" thinking produced great looking but very similar looking swings.  But again, they all arrived at impact in similar positions.

If you attend a PGA TOUR event now, I am guessing you could recognize a few faces, but how many swings would you recognize?  You could probably pick out Jim Furyk, J.B. Holmes, and Phil Mickelson (because he is left handed), but if you go up and down the money list, there are many swings you could not put a name to.  Now, there is nothing wrong with perfection, I am just pointing out in the 1960's players tended to play their own game and did not worry about what the next player was doing.  In today's era, players have access to great instruction and they are taking advantage of every opportunity to improve.

The bottom line is, all great players have great impact positions throughout the era's.

As a teacher, I have seen thousands of golf swings.  The one thing which stands out as a difference between an accomplished player and that of a 20+ handicapper is impact.  Many times I will start a pupil at impact, and then work to improve their swing from there.  Once you are at impact there is really only one way to take the club back to top.  And, from impact, there is only one way to get to the finish. 

I use an impact or smash bag to teach the proper impact position.  Here is a picture of David, a student from West Texas I am working with.

Rules for Impact (right-handers)
1. Left arm and club in line
2. Weight moving to left side
3. Right knee moving toward target
4. Head behind ball
5. Braced left leg 
6. Right arm close to side
7. Club face square to target

With a little practice on the smash bag your impact position and ball striking will improve.
Note how similar his position is to that of striking the smash bag.

The bottom line is a great impact position will get you compressing your golf ball.  The benefits for iron shots will be striking the ball first then taking a divot which means more solid contact.  For the driver it means you will hit it farther and straighter!

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